Now that we’re finishing off Thanksgiving leftovers, recovering from Friday shopping and are preparing to flip the calendar to December, I wanted to take a quick look back at the month that was for the St. Louis Blues. Despite a string of poor starts, the Blues managed to maintain a steady pace in the Western Conference race. I made my list of things to be thankful for and was ready to rant and rave about the quality of Blues games this year, but after careful consideration I think I may simply have expectations set too high for a team suffering through one of the toughest injury seasons in the league.
This year’s Blues wrapped up their November schedule on Saturday with a 3-1 win over the visiting Columbus Blue Jackets. The victory gives St. Louis a 15-6-3 record through 24 games for 33 points, the second best record in the West. Considering the number and quality of man-games lost already in 2015-16 this result is pretty good. Last season, the Blues had nowhere near the same kind of injuries this early and were only a point better at the same mark (16-6-2.)
The month of November began rather conspicuously for the St. Louis Blues with a shutout loss to the LA Kings, at home no less. With an 8-2-1 record in October, the Blues looked to be off to another strong start for the season, despite the many injuries that had already befallen the team. They bounced back in a big way on the road in Chicago, coming back from a 5-2 first period deficit to beat the Blackhawks in overtime and rode that momentum to a pair of shutout wins, also on the road. The club appeared to be firing on all cylinders but closed out their trip with a 6-3 clunker of a loss to the Rangers. Was St. Louis’ success perhaps too much of a makeshift collection of parts to maintain?
With the exception of their 4-0 victory in Nashville and eventual overtime win against Winnipeg, every St. Louis game, on the road or at home during November shared a common thread: the Blues rarely start playing much hockey until the 2nd period. It’s what put them down 5-2 against the Blackhawks after one period in that comeback win. In today’s NHL it’s unrealistic to expect comeback wins after spotting teams big, early leads. The trend of slow starts held true even into the Blues’ win over Columbus Saturday but they ended up playing a pretty good 40 minutes for a solid victory. Isn’t the two points what should matter?
It’s too early to make any predictions and ultimately what happens come April and the playoffs are all that matters. While the ugly wins may be building character and chemistry for this year’s squad and they’re certainly doing nothing to help my indigestion, this is a new month and another chance to get off to a good start, for a change.